Wish List

I’m working on a list of gadgets and gizmos that I’d like to get for the kitchen.  I recently purchased some new prep/mixing bowls to replace our last set.  Half of the bowls are being used for dog water, so that’s not really working out anymore.  While I was on amazon, I decided to put together a list of things that our kitchen needs.  This list will also be a guide for those of you out there who might need gift giving ideas…  click on each picture for a little story!

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Hello world!

Sprouts!

 

So, I’ve grown tired of Blogger.com’s wonky interface.  I’ve decided to migrate my blog to www.wordpress.com.  Never fear, all of the old posts have migrated along too.

Let me know what you think of the new layout!

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Belle Fromage!

I am currently reading a beautiful cookbook by Thomas Keller, owner and chef of Napa Valley’s very famous restaurant The French Laundry. My friend Ana and her husband Alex saved up for a year to eat there (the 9 course Chef’s tasting menu is $270 per person before the amazing wine and champagne). Chef Keller created a second restaurant in the area called Ad Hoc, which is a more informal 4 course, family style restaurant. I cannot afford to eat at either, but I can check out his beautiful cookbooks from the library.

So, I’m reading the Ad Hoc cookbook which includes recipes for Roast Poussin (did you know that a pousssin is a chicken that is less than a month old?) and Spring Vegetable Garbure (a thick French soup) – and I’m thinking these aren’t my home recipes, but to each their own. The recipe for chicken soup with dumplings is ridiculous. First, you make the chicken soup by slowly sauteing the celery/carrot/onion/leeks for an hour. After the hour, you add chicken stock (homemade of course) and let that simmer for two hours. Then you strain the broth and discard all of the vegetables. The next step it to chop and saute separately more celery, carrot, and onion for the actual soup. I don’t know about you, but I’m ok with keeping those old, tired vegetables from before and saving a LOT of extra work. The rest of the recipe is fairly straightforward unless you didn’t poach a whole chicken and break it down before you started the soup base. I’m sure if I had endless time I’d love to prepare this beautiful (and I’m sure tasty) soup for my husband, but I’ve got a full life here. As much as I’m not a fan of Rachel Ray (EVOO!!!) she’s got the right idea with her 30 Minute Meals.

What does all of this have to do with beautiful cheese, you may ask? Well, on pages 290-291 of Ad Hoc, there is a two page spread of cheese – beautiful cheese. The picture is broken down into three sections: COW – GOAT – SHEEP. Each of the two dozen cheeses are pictured in all of their mouldy, smelly glory. Ok so you can’t actually smell them but you can tell there are some stinkers there – I’m talking to you, Pug’s Leap Buche… Upon turning the page to the belle fromage, I said (with much sadness) to my husband, “I wish I could try all of these cheeses…”.

Well, wouldn’t you know he had the best idea! “We could try one a week”, he cheerfully supplied. WHAT AN IDEA!!! So, foodie friends, there may not be room in my budget for a visit to The French Laundry, but I can certainly afford a little bit of fancy cheese every week!

So the plan is to procure a new cheese each week (or more realistically ever other week since I’ll probably have to go out of town to find anything more exciting than an aged cheddar), research the origin/history of the cheese and (most importantly) eat said cheese and tell you all about it. I can’t wait!

Posted in 30 minute meals, cheese, french, husband | Leave a comment

The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever (how humble)


Big doesn’t always mean best!

Title: The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever

Author: Beatrice Ojakangas

Publish Date: 2008

Brief description: From classic meat and veg casseroles like Tuna Noodle Casserole with Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs (pg 375) to “is that really a casserole?”dishes like Hot Broccoli Slaw (pg 395) there is something (probably many somethings) here for everyone. Lots of vegetarian dishes and ethnic recipes. The sections of the book are organized by casserole type including (but not limited to) Appetizers, Casserole Breads, Breakfast, Poultry, Beef, Pasta, Grain & Legume, Side Dish, Casseroles for Two, and Dessert Casseroles. There are a lot of references to Minnesota “Hot Dish”, so don’t expect very many “fine dining” style recipes – if that is your “thing”.

Amount and quality of pictures: One of the biggest problems that I have with this book is that there are only 16 pictures in this 640 page book. Those that are included are beautiful and really make you wonder why the publishers decided not to include more pictures. After all, you eat first with your eyes!

Ease of recipes: I did find a few instances where the directions were a bit vague, mostly when it came to stove temperatures. Novice cooks need more direction than just “saute”. I would say that this book is aimed at an intermediate level cook for that reason.

Common or exotic ingredients: Nothing fancy here. This is homestyle, comfort food. The recipes cover a wide range of cuisines from Italian to Moroccan so there are a few mildly exotic ingredients such as the kasseri cheese found in the recipe for Turkish Lamb Stew and Sultan’s Delight (pg 296). That being said, with over 500 recipes, you wouldn’t miss much if you had to skip one or two.

Nutritional information included: None to speak of. This is probably due to the author’s technique of offering substitutions for many of the recipes (heavy cream for sour cream, leave out the cheese if you wish, etc.). With the vast number of ingredients in many of the recipes, and the fact that casseroles by their very nature lack built-in portion sizes, you are going to find it very difficult to know how many calories are in your serving of Mushroom-Stuffed Croissant Casserole (pg 115).

Ease of use (format): This is a really big book, heavy too. To be honest, it is hard to handle. Many recipes in a section are small variations on a previous recipe. I think it would have been smarter (and saved a few trees) if the author would have listed variations on the basic recipe instead. I do like how the ingredients are listed on the right side of the recipe with the directions to the left (instead of at the top of the recipe like you usually find). I also believe that almost every recipe is contained on one page, which is really helpful when you’ve checked the book out from the library and are making illegal copies of recipes at work. Not that I’d do that… Additionally, as discussed above, the book is organized by style of casserole. It would have been nice to have a cross reference by cuisine so that you could put together an Italian meal or potluck. With so many recipes the organization is a bit lean and the index, with recipes listed alphabetically mixed with “by ingredient”, is very confusing. An example of that is Bell Pepper and Sausage Strata (pg 118) is indexed under “sausage – Bell Pepper and Sausage Strata”, “Bell Pepper and Sausage Strata”, and (you guessed it) “Strata – Bell Pepper and Sausage Strata”. Ugh!

Tools, Tricks, Techniques: There is a small section in the beginning of the cookbook (only four pages) that discusses casserole basics such as cookware, freezing and thawing casseroles, assembling casseroles, and “tools for your kitchen”. I didn’t find anything in there earth-shattering. Additionally, one of the main points of the book is to return to “homemade” sauces (as opposed to can soups and premade sauces). To that point there is a very comprehensive chapter on sauces including White (pg 18), Bechamel (pg 21), and Savory Tomato Sauce (pg 23).

Recipe I can’t wait to try: Roasted Sweet Onions with Herbs and Gruyere (pg 441). In a word, wow.

Recipe I would never try: Spiced Hazelnut Barley Casserole (pg 337) definitely sounds like something hippies would eat.

The last word: If someone gave me this book for Christmas, I’d probably be pretty happy. I can see myself flipping through it for inspiration (I did find the section on breakfast casseroles to be interesting. That being said, if I was looking to buy a book on casseroles, I think I could do better for my money.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 1/2

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>Anyone Can Bake

>

My first review!

Title: Better Homes and Gardens® Anyone Can Bake – Step by step recipes just for you
Edited by: Tricia Laning

Date of Publication: 2009

Brief description: This cookbook from the Better Homes and Gardens Publishers is a fantastic guide to baking. I was amazed at the number of recipes and variations on most recipes. Additionally there is so much how-to information squeezed into every beautiful page. I think even seasoned bakers would get something from this book even though its target audience is the novice to intermediate home baker. The beginning of the book contains a “basics” chapter which is followed by the recipes. The recipes are broken down into the following sections: Oven Fresh Cookies, Beyond Square Bars and Brownies, Irresistible Cakes, Everyday Snack Cakes and Cupcakes, Luscious Cheesecakes and Shortcakes, Anytime Desserts, Perfect Pies and Tarts, Pastry Shop Specialties, Quick-As-Can-Be Muffins and Breads, Scrumptious Scones and Biscuits and (finally) Your Daily Breads. The index includes not only a list of the recipes but conversion charts.
Amount and quality of pictures: Packed with pictures of the final products (Sour Cream Pumpkin Cheesecake on pg 193), as well as many step-by-step snapshots along the baking process (cheesecake baking basics on pg 188). All pictures are in color and the photographs are really sharp.
Ease of recipes: The recipes are actually organized throughout each section into three skill levels so there are many beginner recipes as well as more challenging projects. Recipes start out as easy as Chocolate Chip Cookies (pg 75) and become as advanced as Chocolate-Peppermint Fantasy Cake (pg 140).
Common ingredients or exotic: Being a BHG book, there are very few exotic ingredients that home cooks would be hard pressed to find.
Nutritional information included: Good or bad each recipe list the nutritional information including calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, fiber and protein. You’ll have to decide if you really want to know how many calories are in that Upside Down Peach Caramel Crunch Cake (pg 155).
Ease of use (format): Those folks at BHG really thought about this one. The book is about 375 full color pages and is in my favorite format – SPIRAL BOUND! The book lies flat for easy reading. Additionally, there is an “Ask Mom” box at the bottom of most pages to direct the cook where they can find technical information that was explained in the “Intro to Baking” chapter. For example, in the “Ask Mom” box for the Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce (pg 215) you will find out the answer to “What is evaporated milk” because the recipe calls for evaporated milk. How clever! What I really found useful was after the basic recipe, such as the recipe on pg 124 for Fudgy Brownies; there was a two page spread of examples of “kicked up” brownies. Did I really just write kicked up?… This format would be really helpful for novice bakers who are still experimenting with flavor combinations.

Tools, Tricks, Techniques: This book is great for beginners and for those who didn’t have a grandmother to teach them how to bake. The chapter “Intro to Baking” is filled with primers on baking tools and their uses, the description and use of all kinds of ingredients such as different flours, nuts, spices, fruits, sugars and savory ingredients. Pretty much every technique you need to know from measuring dry ingredients to making caramel is in here.

Recipe I can’t wait to try: There were too many in this book to just pick one so I’m picking three – Pistachio Biscotti (pg 89), Lemon Poppyseed Shortbread (pg 100) and Key Lime Cheesecake Bars (pg 186).
Recipe I would never try: It was hard to find an unappetizing recipe in the whole book but I think I’ll skip Rhubarb and Spice Snacking Cake (pg 166).
The final word: I wrote this review, as I will many, from a library copy of the book. I’ve already ordered one from Amazon and I can’t wait until it gets here!
Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 Five out of Five Smiles!
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>Comming soon… Cookbook Reviews!

>One of the features of my blog that I’m looking forward to is the Cookbook Review! I have been waiting until my office space got more organized, but since that may never happen….

I have designed a template that I’m going to use (it’s still a bit in progress) but I’d like to share it with you finally.

Title:

Author:

Date of Publication:
It is good to know how old a book is, and I’m hoping to feature both old and newer books.

Brief description:
Here you will find a two or three sentence idea of what the cookbook is all about.

Amount and quality of pictures:
I don’t know about you, but I think that pictures are vital to the enjoyment of a cookbook. I’ll tell you here how many recipes have pictures and how the pictures add to the book.

Ease of recipes:
Sometimes it’s fun to sit down with a super complicated recipe for the challenge, while sometimes you want something with little hand’s on time. I’ll let you know whether the majority of the recipes are weeknight specials or strictly for weekend work.

Common ingredients or exotic:
I live in the middle of nowhere. There isn’t a Whole Foods near Merced. I’d love to use preserved lemons in a recipe, if I could find them. I’ll let you know the relative degree of difficulty in finding the ingredients for the recipes in the book.

Nutritional information included:
I love finding the nutritional information attached to a recipe. Sometimes you don’t want to know – but I’ll let you know if you can find calories, grams of fat or carbohydrates for each recipe.

Miscellaneous:
Here is where I’ll describe the little extras that makes a cookbook great or terrible – is it written more for professionals or home cooks? Does the author provide tips or tricks that make it a good read versus just a list of recipes? Is there nutritional information or guidance included? Etc., etc., etc.

Rating:
I haven’t completely finalized the rating system, but I do know I’m using a scale from one to ten. I was thinking about 1 to 10 cupcakes or eggs or forks. Any ideas?

Finally I’m planning on listing a recipe I can’t wait to try and a recipe I would never try and maybe a follow up on how recipes I have tried from the book have turned out.

I can’t wait to start!

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>Breakfast

>

It is amazing what you can learn from the Farmer’s Almanac!
– Are all snowflakes different?
– Why do we dream of a white Christmas?
– Should I bundle up on New Year’s Eve?
– What time will the sun set in 8 weeks?
Now they are trying to get me to eat breakfast every morning.
* Energy: Eating a healthy breakfast energizes your body, keeping you from feeling tired and lethargic.
* Concentration: Eating breakfast increases attention span and memory power, and enhances creativity.
* Weight control: Breakfast “breaks” the “fasting” you do all night long. It jump starts your metabolism for the day and allows you to burn more calories throughout the day.
* Healthier food choices: Those who eat breakfast are more apt to make better food choices throughout the day.
I’m not a breakfast eater. I don’t like getting up in the morning. No, I hate getting up in the morning. My snooze alarm gets a great workout every day. Also, I’m not hungry until 10:00 a.m. and it feels “wrong” to eat when I’m not hungry.
When I used to eat breakfast, pre-diabetes, it was something carby: toast, cereal, frozen waffles, fruit smoothie. Lately my breakfasts have included huevos rancheros (Xmas breakfast), McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin with Egg (substitute the round egg for the folded), and oatmeal (during the time I was sick and wasn’t eating “real” food) – still not great choices. I used to love english muffins with peanut butter, but I can’t eat peanut butter anymore because it gives me heartburn.
So, what to eat for breakfast? I was buying Kashi Go Lean cereal for a while and will probably go back to that – for a month, until I stay in bed too late.
Posted in breakfast, eggs, McDonald's | 1 Comment